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This photo, taken by an Albany resident's door camera, shows a man ringing the resident's doorbell before stealing a package. Law enforcement officials say that residents can take steps to prevent this sort of package theft. 

You might have noticed the recent Democrat-Herald story that profiled a pair of volunteers with the Albany Police Department, Steven Mills, 70, and Connie Erickson, 68.

We're grateful for the work these volunteers perform. The Police Department could use additional volunteers. Contact the department at 541-917-7680 if you want to know more.

But we couldn't help but notice the work that these two volunteers were performing during a recent shift in the Costco parking lot. Among other assignments, they were checking to see if shoppers had left packages visible in their cars — and were writing "pass" or "fail" reports to leave on the windshields.

The idea is fairly simple: Leaving packages readily visible in vehicles (which are, too often, unlocked in the first place) offers an invitation to a thief and prompted a "fail" message from the volunteers. If the packages were placed in the vehicle's trunk or some other location where they weren't visible to would-be thieves, you got a "pass" note.

It's all a reminder, as we head into the frenzied final days of the holiday shopping season, that this also is prime time for criminal activity. But a little bit of common sense — and spending just an extra minute or two — can help guard against the possibility that you'll be a victim of holiday crime.

In the mid-valley, thankfully, violent crime remains relatively rare. If you're the victim of a crime in this area, the odds are overwhelming that it's going to be some kind of property crime.

And since property crime often is a crime of opportunity, there are simple steps you can take to move the odds in your favor. Two simple steps that we often forget in our holiday rush: Placing packages out of sight in vehicles. And locking those vehicles.

This also is the prime season for the kind of crooks who  have been dubbed "package pirates" — people who swoop onto your porch to nab a package that's just been delivered.

Again, though, this a crime of opportunity — and you can take steps to reduce that opportunity. To that end, we're grateful for a list of suggestions issued this week by the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Among the hints:

• Sign up for delivery alerts, so you know when your delivery has been scheduled — and when the package has been delivered.

• If you can't be home when a package is scheduled to be delivered, ask a trusted neighbor to hold it for you. (Be sure to thank the neighbor later for this service, and if your thanks include a plate of Christmas cookies, so much the better.)

• On a related note, if you see a package on your neighbor's doorstep, reach out and ask if they would like you to hold it until they get home. (You could also drop a hint or two about how much you'd like a plate of Christmas cookies, but neighborliness would suggest that it's bad form to hold the package hostage until you receive a delivery of baked goods.)

• If possible, require a signature for all deliveries.

• Consider shipping packages to your place of work or use the "ship-to-store" option. If you choose that option, when you get to the store, be sure that any other packages are out of view, as recommended just a few paragraphs ago.

• Finally, of course, before you place an online order, be sure that the product you're buying isn't available locally. There are real advantages to buying locally, and this is among them. 

The holidays can be stressful enough without worrying about how a carefully chosen gift could get snatched away. But a little bit of planning on your part — not to mention a little bit of neighborly outreach — could help hold these package pirates at bay. (mm)

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Managing Editor